BOSTON (WWLP) – A Connecticut-based company operating nursing homes throughout Massachusetts, including Northampton, has reached a settlement by the Attorney General’s Office over failure to meet the needs of residents with substance use disorder.

According to Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office, Athena Health Systems of Farmington, Connecticut has agreed to pay $1.75 million and adopt a series of critical compliance measures in a settlement. The allegations include failure to meet the needs of nursing home residents experiencing substance use disorder.

Athena Health Systems owns, operates, and manages skilled nursing homes and hospice facilities throughout New England, including the following:

  • Marlborough Hills Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center of Marlborough
  • Highview of Northampton
  • Parsons Hill Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center
  • Worcester Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center

Reports were investigated of substandard care or regulatory violations at these nursing homes that allegedly started in 2016.

  • The AG’s Office alleges that the Athena facilities, at the direction of Athena, admitted substantial numbers of residents with histories of substance use disorder, despite the fact that the facilities did not have adequate levels of appropriately trained staff to meet the needs of those residents.
  • The AG’s Office alleges that numerous overdoses have occurred at the Athena facilities, some of which the Athena facilities failed to report to DPH. According to the AG’s Office, Athena was aware that this conduct led to noncompliance with regulations but still encouraged the Athena facilities to admit residents with histories of substance use disorder.
  • The AG’s Office found that one of the facilities named in the settlement failed to adequately screen staff for COVID-19 infection, risking the spread of the virus to medically vulnerable residents.

“Every nursing home resident deserves to live in a safe environment, with dignity and access to high-quality care,” said AG Healey. “This resolution ensures that Athena facilities will appropriately provide care for individuals with substance use disorder and helps to restore the trust families need when making critical decisions about the care of their loved ones.”

In addition to $1.75 million, Athena Health Systems will update policies, procedures, and trainings with respect to its treatment of residents with histories of substance use disorder. Hire an auditor to review records every six months. Adopt a series of compliance initiatives, including mandatory compliance training, annual mock surveys, hiring of four full-time regional nurses dedicated to clinical operations and compliance, and implementation of a system-wide electronic dashboard.

This is the largest nursing home settlement ever reached by the AG’s Office. The funds will be used for the state’s Opioid Recovery and Remediation Trust Fund for prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery across Massachusetts.